Collection Description

Culture Name

Highland Scots

Culture Description

The Highlands of Scotland include the lands north of a line running south and west from the town of Inverness on the northeast, encompassing the shires of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Inverness, and Argyll, as well as the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. English has been the official language since 1754, but some Gaelic is spoken in a few areas of the west coast. The Highland Scots have a mixed economy, including agriculture, fishing, animal husbandry, crafts, local industries, and tourism.


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Europe --British Isles


United Kingdom

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

There are twenty-six English language documents in the Highland Scots collection written by authors from a wide range of academic disciplines: anthropology, linguistics, sociology, the natural sciences, economics, geography, and history. A number of these documents are detailed community studies. 1: Parman is a study of the township of Shawbost in northwestern Lewis. This study contains data on socio-cultural change, interpersonal relations, and personal histories. 2: Thompson is a history of Lewis and Harris with data on geography, the economy, agriculture, and land reform. 3: Geddes is a survey of the changing physical, environmental, and cultural systems on Lewis and Harris from the seventeenth century to 1952. 4: Moisley et al. is a detailed study of the parish of Uig in western Lewis, with emphasis on land use, agricultural practices, and the present state of the crofting system. 5: Caird et al. is a similar study of the agricultural practices and potentials of the district of Park, in eastern Lewis, south of the town of Stornaway. 6: Ducey is a detailed study of the socio-cultural effects of the severe depopulation of the Isle of Skye. The study focuses on the maintenance of cultural continuity through change from a clan-oriented to a religion-oriented society.

Cultural and social change on the Isle of Lewis and Harris is given primary emphasis in 7: Ennew. Ennew notes that life-styles that are often taken to be traditional are actually of recent origin and closely tied to the development of capitalism in the United Kingdom. 8: MacKinnon is a study of the maintenance of the Gaelic language on Harris. MacKinnon examines the vitality of Gaelic on the island focusing on the respective role and function of Gaelic and English in community life, the educational system, and religion. 9: Gregor is a study of the effects of industrialization on the population of the village of Kinlochleven in northern Argyllshire. This document includes much ethnographic data on this community. A survey of the entire western highland area in given in 10: Darling. This document presents data on history, physical and biological characteristics of the area, ecology, agriculture, and population dynamics. A detailed discussion of changes in land use, agricultural production, demography, and social organization in the Scottish highland is the subject of 11: Bryden. Bryden criticizes various developmental schemes and offers his own suggestions for future planning. 12: Lowenberg is an exploration of the needs of the elderly population on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides.

13: Walker discusses the options available to individuals as they confront life-cycle decisions such as marriage and residence changes. Walker highlights the role of inheritance as a factor in decision-making. 14: Vallee is a description of communal rituals associated with death on the island of Barra. 15: Colemand describes and analyzes the process of language shift taking place within the village of Carloway on the Isle of Lewis. This study documents the general decline in the use of Gaelic and an increase in bilingualism (Gaelic and English). 16: Sheets is on physical anthropology. Here Sheets defines, compares, contrasts, and then attempts to account for the genetic structure of the small populations on the islands of Colonsay and Jura in the Inner Hebrides. 17: Dorian is a description of the phonology and morphophonology of Brora, Golspie, and Embo Gaelic, an East Sutherland dialect. Dorian also includes substantial information on dialect mixture in Gaelic and individual variations. 18: Turnock is one of a series of areal studies dealing with the effects of cultural change. This work deals specifically with problems of sparse population, the unbalanced economy, and employment and income opportunities in the highlands and islands of Scotland.

19: Dorian examines the incidence and use of "by-names" among Gaelic speakers in East Sutherland. As the result of a limited number of surnames, the use of "by-names" has arisen in order to permit greater specificity than would be possible by the use of given or proper names alone. 20: Armstrong is a study of a women's voluntary association in the village of Kilmory (a pseudonym) in the southwestern highlands. 21: Prattis is a study in underdevelopment theory. Prattis describes the economic situation in the western isles and then examines in detail the impact on the economy of the policies of the Highlands and Islands Development Board (HIDB). Ford, a village in the western highlands, is the focus of 22: Stephenson. This document deals with the repopulation of the area and various social changes taking place in the community. The use of formal names and nicknames is dealt with in 23: Parman. The focus in this report is the village os Shawbost on Lewis. 24: Dorian deals with the topic of Gaelic proverbial lore in the village of Embo, near Dornoch in Sutherland. 25: Parman is a description of the village of Geall (a pseudonym). In this document Parman presents updated information on the same general area as in 1: Parman. Finally, 26: HRAF consists of a bibliography on the Highland Scots.

clans -- Category 614

clearances -- Categories 175, 166, 233, 311, and 656 (depending on context)

conjoint or farm groups -- Category 476

crofting (croft farming) -- Categories 241, 231, 233, 311, 427 (depending on context)

cultural isolation of the Highland Scots from Scotland and England -- Category 184

Crofters Holding Act of 1886 -- Category 671

emigration -- all discussions of emigration by islanders, when the destination in not stated, including non-resident members of the community -- Category 166

Harris tweed industry -- Category 288

Highland and Islands Development Board (HIDB) -- Categories 179, 654

lairds -- landlords or proprietors -- Categories 423, 427

Lewis Association -- Category 179

Napier Commission -- Category 657

parishes -- Category 632 (sometimes 794)

peat bogs (location and formation of) -- Categories 133, 134; exploitation of, Category 314

preparation of alkali from kelp (for the glass and soap industries) -- Categories 323, 388, 824

the Reformation -- Category 798

runes, used in rituals -- Category 788

128 The culture summary was written by Ed Knipe for the Encyclopedia of World Cultures. The information presented in the document evaluation was prepared by John Beierle in August 1993.

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